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Sep 12, 2011 at 1:27PM
The array is dizzying. Dozens of face-washing “enhancers” are being touted in the fall fashion mags as vital for the nightly cleaning ritual: pre-wash makeup removers, post-wash scrubbing pads, exfoliating gels, toners to restore pH balance and on and on.
What’s a woman to do?
Just find yourself a good gentle face soap, dermatologists say. If you have reasonably normal skin, use the product twice a day, apply moisturizer after you’ve washed (one with sunscreen in the mornings) and ignore all those other things, they say.
“You don’t need 25 products to have good, clean skin,” says dermatologist Karen Nern of Vail Dermatology in Edwards and Basalt, Colo. “Cleansing your face is not complicated.”
Indeed, the avalanche of pre- and post-face-washing products entering the post-summer marketplace sometimes troubles dermatologists.
Most are a waste of money for relatively normal skin, and some people “can do too much with too many products and irritate their skin,” Nern says.
“It’s really best, for skin, to keep it simple,” says dermatologist Meryl Blecker Joerg of Advanced Dermatology and the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery, with locations in New York and New Jersey.
The terms “soap” and “cleanser” are used interchangeably, but some “cleansers” contain things docs don’t like, and some soaps aren’t right, either.
Face-cleaning products dermatologists prefer range from bars (they love Dove, Purpose and Cetaphil) to gels to liquids. Whatever the form, the products must be formulated for the face, not the body, and shouldn’t contain deodorant, antiseptics or, ideally, fragrance. They shouldn’t have scrubbing grains/grit or other popular additives.
Good non-bar options are foaming and non-foaming; neither is necessarily superior (though non-foaming is regarded as milder and may be easier on especially sensitive skin, Joerg says).
There’s no need for post-wash toners because “they tend to remove the natural oils that should remain on the skin,” Joerg says. In fact, any product promising to return skin to proper pH after washing is unnecessary, because unlike in decades past, “most cleansers today are at normal pH,” Nern says.
Increasingly, dermatologists contend with fads. Two now promoted on the Internet — wash your face with bleach, or wash your face with hydrogen peroxide — are horrifying to Nern. “Way too harsh,” she declares.
As for green teas being promoted as face soap? “Tea isn’t a good cleanser,” Nern says. “It can kill bacteria, and it can feel soothing, but it won’t get skin clean.”